The Tri-Silver is one of PLUSSOUND’s high-end wire choices with this being their 8-wire series edition or an X8. Unlike all Zillion Sheep creations which use a single high purity OFC copper element, this is a mix of 3 different types of silver wires, pure silver, gold-plated silver, and palladium-plated silver.
There is no direct comparison with the Litz finished 480 core count inside the Zillion Sheep cables but we do know the 8-wire Tri-Silver is a 26AWG gauge with a Type 6 Litz design. The Tri-Silver X8 also uses an individual strand enamel coating instead of the Zillion Sheep double silk winding for insulation.
Two very different design philosophies. The Tri-Silver is a lot thicker, however, with the wood splitter, it is probably about the same weight as the Zillion Sheep creation. I suspect the aluminum or heavier splitters might make the Zillion Sheep the lighter of the two designs.
It is also a lot more supple with lower microphonics from its PVC braiding build as opposed to the twisted design with the stiffer PE jacket on the Zillion Sheep. Handling will favor the Tri-Silver X8 though the wide arch of the Zillion Sheep design does not rest on the ear making it comfier than the fatter 8-wire Tri-Silver around the back of the ear.
Both have multiple termination options ranging from regular 2-pin to more complex 4-pin, Fitear, and IPX. However, Wagnus does offer reverse qdc 2-pins which I am not sure PLUSSOUND sells. One thing to note are the differences in the plug materials with PLUSSOUND using gold-plated copper and the Zillion Sheep finished with silver-plated copper.
Final aesthetics will depend on the finish you choose on the Zillion Sheep from Azul, to Noire or Snow with the Snow being the closest in looks to the Tri-Silver’s shimmery light tones.
For this comparison, the Zillion Sheep NU-1 was selected given its more neutral leanings which tend to resonate more closely with the Tri-Silver X8 than the other two comparisons choices.
In terms of dynamic range, there is little if any difference between these two cables attached to the Touch and MEST MKII. My own subjective bias might have initially suggested the Zillion Sheep NU-1 had the better dynamic range but this was more to do with the NU-1’s effect on the MEST MKII’s performance than any technical magical sauce.
Both resolve very well so 8 wire versus 4 have little meaning in this context. The key difference was the timbre and emphasis in the FR and here I would describe the NU-1 as balanced rather than neutral and the Tri-Silver X8 as neutral to slightly bright in comparison.
The NU-1/MEST MKII pairing sounds a lot more full-blooded and even harmonic compared to the cleaner and drier tone of the Tri-Silver X8. On the low-end, the NU-1 pushes the MEST MKII bass a lot harder and sounds deeper which is something I tend to look for with a dynamic driver and a good quality cable.
The Tri-Silver X8 keeps it punchier and tighter and drops back on the warmth a little with the MEST MKII pairing. You get more of an upper mids and treble influence with this pairing and more odd-harmonic and airy overtones in the mids timbre as a result. The NU-1 keeps the balance more to the smooth side with a treble performance that is not quite as forward or pervasive.
As a result, the midrange instruments and vocal from the MEST MKII has a little less weight and are more pristine in their coloration with the X8 and weightier, more textured, and smoother with the NU-1.
Effect Audio Leonidas II Octa
The EA Leonidas II Octa was our award-winning cable from 2018 and not that far off the price of the Zillion Sheep. Like the Tri-Silver, this is a hybrid wire with a mix of golden ratio palladium-plated silver & Litz pure silver as opposed to Wagnus’s choice of a single high purity OFC copper for the Zillion Sheep.
The Zillion sheep are 4-wire Litz cables as opposed to an 8-wire Litz geometry inside the Octa but again, there is not really a direct comparison as Wagnus use a very high 480 core count inside each conductor. The Octa instead opts for 26AWG wire sizes but we do know the wires are individually stranded.
Those Octa individual stands are also using enamel coatings as opposed to the double silk windings on the Zillion Sheep strands.
The Octa is a little lighter than the Zillion Sheep cables but it’s also about 10-12cm shorter sop you have to account for that. Both the Zillion Sheep Snow and Oct cast a similar hue with transparent jackets and the light silvery coloration from the internal wiring. The Azul and Noire are very much the darker-looking cables.
The key experiential difference though is in the braiding and handling with the Octa using a classic dutch or french braid as opposed to the twisted styling of the Zillion Sheep cables. That allows the Wagnus cables to retain a slimmer form factor compared to the Octa.
However, the PE jacket and twisting technique do create a stiffer cable finish compared to the Octa as well as producing a higher level of microphonics. Both have beautiful splitters though the Octa design also deadens the noise below whereas the brushed stainless-steel emblem of the Zillion Sheep is more for aesthetics.
The Zillion Sheep are the comfier of the two over the ear with the more pliant Octa using the back of the ear as a guide for its wider body. The Zillion sheep cables do not touch the back of the ears in any significant way.
For this comparison, I went with the NU-2 or ‘Grandeur’ edition of the Zillion Sheep range with its greater focus on staging manipulation which the Leonidas II Octa is also known for.
First up, the dynamic range gap is minimal between these two cables. Any perceived difference is going to be down more on the specific tuning that comes out of the pairing with the MEST MKII.
In this case, the staging manipulation from the NU-2 is a bit more shaped and ‘determined’ shall we say than the Octa. With the Octa/MEST MKII, it is an immersive holographic feel where you are in the center of the stage and the instruments are up close and around you with pinpoint accuracy.
With the NU-2, the vocals are pushed forward with more focus and the rest of the staging presence is pushed further back to accentuate a vocal first imaging performance. The concept is to expand the staging to a hall-like experience but not lose focus on the singer.
However, there is a dropping down of the bass weight on the NU-2 which also sucks out a tiny bit of comparative authority from the otherwise smooth and clear vocal performance. It is not quite as voluptuous and bombastic as the Octa timbral equivalent.
The Octa has the weightier tone of the two cables on the low-end and also a bit more lower-mids presence and warmth. Combine that with a more forward imaging experience it sounds the richer and more vibrant of the two cables. The Octa is not as vocal-focused but it does not need to be given its stronger physicality and immediacy.
Satin Audio Zeus
This is the flagship cable from Vietnam’s Satin Audio and one we reviewed in mid-2020. Inside it also uses a mix of metals as opposed to single choice with the use of gold-plated silver, palladium-plated silver, and silver-gold alloy compared to the Zillion Sheep high purity OFC copper.
Both cables are 4-wire though the Zeus plays more on the benefits of a larger 24AWG gauge wire size whereas the Zillion Sheep has no official gauge rating and instead pitches its ultra-high 480 core count, (120 x 4).
The Zeus does not have an official core count but it does use individual multi-sized stranding with silver-gold and palladium-plated silver having the larger stranding dimension compared to the slightly smaller SP OCC gold-plated outer layer.
No doubt the Zeus is the lighter of the two cables with probably a much lower core count. Mind you, the 24AWG rating doesn’t mean it’s as light as lower-end 26AWG 4-wire options but compared to the huge 4-wire 480-core Zillion Sheep creation this is going to be a bit of a breeze.
Aesthetically, the Zeus does look so very different with its dullish gold hue compared to the multiple solid tone variations you can get with the Wagnus designs. No doubt you can personalize a lot more with the various gemstones compared to the more traditional carbon fiber printed round barrels of the Zeus.
Again, handling and microphonics greatly favor the Zeus with its braided style and excellent deadening around the splitter. It is also the more pliant of the two cables with its lighter build though in terms of girth both are roughly the same.
Not a huge difference in terms of overall comfort. The Zeus does use the back of the ear more for guidelines so you can feel it on the ear whereas the Zillion Sheep’s wider arching clears the ear better. Neither use memory wire which some might prefer though 20201 memory coatings are much softer than they used to be on cables.
For this comparison, we chose the NU-3 with its vaunted energetic performance which I felt would be an interesting complement to Zeus’ power-orientated signature sound.
In terms of dynamic range, the NU-3 does hit a little harder and sounds the more vibrant of these two cables which is impressive because I always classed the Zeus as one of the more aggressive sounding cables. That is not quite the case here, at least on a comparative level.
It is not so much that the NU-3 makes the Zeus sound lean, both are pretty punchy sounding with the MEST MKII and extend beautifully. Rather, right at the very lowest register the NU-3 just shows a bit more girth, texture, and weight.
If you aim purely for the mid-bass the Zeus might actually sound the more vibrant and physical of the two but once you mix in some sub-bass grunt the NU-3 shows off a more grandiose performance with the MEST MKII.
What I mean by grandiose is the NU-3 sounds the more expansive sounding or airier of the two cables with the bass positioned further back but sounding grander. Whereas the Zeus sound deep but that depth is within a narrower and more intimate soundstage.
The timbral contrast also reflects that with the NU-3 offering a sweeter tone and a bit more shimmer on the MEST MKII vocal performance whereas the Zeus sounding very natural but slightly less treble sparkle and drier in the vocal timbre. There is definitely a bit more refined treble sparkle and energy coming through on the NU-3 with the MEST MKII compared to the Zeus.
I am always excited to hear new brand cables for the first time. Not just for the obvious performance differences that they bring to our tested monitors but also for experiencing the different visions laid down on the table by the makers
In the case of Wagnus and their Zillion Sheep cable range, this is a very different approach from the likes of Effect Audio, PLUSSOUND et al with their laser-like focus on core counts and a thrice manipulated OFC SPC to produce 3 easily distinguishable and excellent sound signatures.
They also look beautiful with a very different clean and tidy aesthetic compared to the typically braided high-end alternative. Their only Achilles heel is that handling experience with a higher level of microphonics and stiffness than I would like to see in a high-end cable.
If I had to pick one Zillion Sheep cable, it has to be the NU-1. It is the most dynamic of the cables with the best harmonic balance and the most immersive staging quality. It pairs well with just about every high-performing monitor I could pick out. The NU-2 is more niche for vocal lovers whereas the NU-3 will find joy with EDM and expansive ambient sounding synth-wave enthusiasts.
Overall, the 3 Zillion sheep perform like flagship cables should and all three deliver the goods in terms of dynamic range and resolution to compete with equally priced high-end cables.